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Thursday, April 18, 2024

UF Kappa Alpha Psi celebrates Black community, culture despite arrest at step show

The fraternity won the Florida Invitational Step Show’s Stroll Off competition

Members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity exchange words of encouragement before their performance for the UFFISS Stroll Off competition at Depot Park on Feb. 17, 2024.
Members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity exchange words of encouragement before their performance for the UFFISS Stroll Off competition at Depot Park on Feb. 17, 2024.

The winner of the Florida Invitational Step Show’s Stroll Off competition, Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, is focusing on its community and celebrating Black culture — despite an arrest that occurred at the event last weekend. 

UF student Jacob Park, 21, was arrested Saturday during the largest student-run step show in the southeast held by the UF Black Student Union at the Performing Arts Center on suspicion of battery, possession of a concealed weapon and distribution of written threats to kill. 

UF Police Department officers monitored Park after he repeatedly stepped behind walls to hide from them and acted suspiciously, according to the arrest report. 

At one point, Park approached an officer, asked her if she was from Africa and then told her she should visit the continent. She continued to monitor his activity as he moved to the front of the auditorium, according to the arrest report. 

Two people expressed concerns about Park’s behavior to the officer, and one said Parker explained to them his intentions to start a fight with members of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. 

After the event ended, Park, who was standing near the auditorium exit, allegedly pushed a Black man which led officers to detain and search him. 

Inside Park’s pocket was a kitchen knife, and further investigation revealed he was sending online threats to the assault victim and other members of Kappa Alpha Psi, including statements that he was going to decapitate the victim at the step show and “kill” one of the members. 

Caleb Joseph, a UF senior and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity member, said he was talking to his girlfriend when he got a phone call that one of his fraternity brothers had been assaulted.  

“The event that happened was unfortunate and simply sad now in 2024,” the 22-year-old said. “We are at a top university but are still having to deal with hate crimes.”  

Joseph was disappointed the assault became a main topic of the step show, which was meant to celebrate Black History Month and his culture. 

“I would hate for an event like that to overshadow what our fraternity stands for, which is achievement.” Joseph said, “and that is exactly what we did this weekend at the step show.”  

The Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity was announced the winner of the FISS Stroll Off Saturday after a detailed performance with synchronized moves and a human pyramid. 

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In preparation for the event, the fraternity spent hours in the basement of Rawlings Hall perfecting its routine. Omaree May, a 21-year-old UF nursing senior and fraternity member, has balanced working at UF Health Shands Hospital with attending the daily practices.  

“I hope the community can see our hard work in action — the late nights, the intense discussions about our performance and creating a good show,” May said.  

Rather than focus on the arrest, fraternity brothers like May are choosing to focus on how the competition was successful in bringing the community of Gainesville together to celebrate Black culture.   

“We had a very supportive audience at the show, and I felt welcomed by the Gainesville community,” May said. “People I didn't even know were coming up to me and asking for pictures.”  

Angel Gomez, a 20-year-old UF advertising junior and president of the chapter, said the incident only showed how strong the brotherhood of Kappa Alpha Psi is and encouraged people to spread awareness that events like this are still possible in the midst of celebration.

Gomez felt a great sense of pride throughout the step show, he added.  

“Pride in the chapter overall, pride in my brothers, pride in the time they put in and pride in being a member of the organization,” Gomez said.

All three fraternity members wished to continue the “legacy of success” left by previous Kappa Alpha Psi brothers.  

Caleb Joseph also looked to inspire the youth of the area, specifically younger people of color and demonstrate the community UF could offer them.  

“At this competition, I had the intention of leaving a legacy for fraternity brothers down the road. My hope is that they will think, ‘I can do literally anything because they were able to do all of this while applying for scholarships, internships, taking classes and more,’” he said.

Joseph hoped the community would see the strength of his fraternity and be inspired by its solidity and response to retaliation, he said.

“I want the community to understand that members of my fraternity and people of color that go through those experiences are strong individuals. The way the situation was handled takes a lot of self-control and moving forward after that shows resilience,” Joseph said. “I want the community to know that Kappa Alpha Psi is resilient and to be aware that this is still a thing today.”

Contact Madilyn Gemme at Follow her on Twitter @madilyngemme.

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